Depression is a drag on business

Depression is a drag on business February 16, 2007–Heather Hennigar hates to hear someone’s on “stress leave” from work.

That’s been the polite term for so long. Really, the person is suffering from major depressive disorder, but we don’t want to talk about it.”

As someone who has battled mental illness on and off since she was 17, Hennigar said it’s time companies made attention to workplace mental illness a priority.
“People have put it on the back burner because they’re either afraid to address the cause or they don’t know how.”

But it’s not going away. In North America, mental illness is taking a $300-billion toll.

Yesterday, in a move to address that, the first-ever U.S.-Canada forum on mental health was created, as part of a special session of the Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health at the Canadian Embassy in Washington. The brainchild of Canadian Ambassador Michael Wilson, it will bring scientists and business executives together to develop a “cure and prevention strategy” for mental illness. The first meetings are in Ottawa this fall.

Roundtable co-founder and forum co-chairman Bill Wilkerson said they will set deadlines to invest in and carry out research to prevent mental disabilities and ultimately cure some of them.

Right now it’s taking 20 years for science to be put into service that benefits patients and that’s got to be cut down, he said.

“We should be looking at 10 years, so scientists can produce results that benefit in a much shorter timeframe.”

Hennigar said reaching the corporate world is vital.

“People are suffering in silence at work for fear they’re going to lose their jobs. They end up going off work and that starts the huge cost to the company.”

In an Ipsos Reid poll of 1,000 Canadians and 1,000 Americans released yesterday, 78% believed a person diagnosed with depression in their workplace would most likely keep it to themselves.


Half felt if someone was suffering from depression and missing work, they’d be more likely to get into trouble.

A third of respondents said they didn’t believe their president/CEO would be understanding, but 84% said CEOs should make helping employees with depression “a key human resources priority.”

In her battle to raise awareness, Hennigar has shared her story with corporations. She said Ottawa has a number of huge employers and said most would be shocked by a cost analysis of the toll of mental illnesses.

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